Should Steelers fans be hoping for a playoff spot or a top-10 draft choice?
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have just four games left in the 2021 season. Should we be looking ahead to the playoffs or preparing for the future?
I’m well aware of what the ultimate goal is in the NFL: to win Super Bowls. While some would argue that teams should sell their future for a chance at the playoffs every year, others believe it’s in the best interest of the team to ‘tank’ for a top draft choice.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a very interesting situation this year. Nearly every statistic and advanced metric indicated that this is roughly the 23rd-best team in the NFL this year. In addition to their embarrassing performances as of late, FiveThirtyEight currently gives Mike Tomlin’s team just a 10 percent chance of making the playoffs this year — a number that is sure to nosedive down to almost nothing if the Steelers lose against the Titans this week.
The thought of ‘tanking’ in the NFL is always a controversial topic — especially when it involves a prestigious organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, this team is in rough shape, and believing that this current unit is capable of winning four straight games in the playoffs to become Super Bowl champions almost seems asinine.
Because of this, should fans be hoping Pittsburgh weasels their way into the playoffs this year or should they set their eyes on obtaining a high draft choice in 2022?
How should Steelers fans be rooting?
I can see both sides of the fence here. On one hand, I’m never able to actively root against the Steelers — especially when a game is in progress. Though I know this team is starving for talent at far too many positions, we always want to see Pittsburgh play well.
However, I’m not oblivious to their current state. This roster is looking pretty rough and the Steelers have missed out on elite draft capital in far too many drafts as they are usually picking late.
This isn’t always the case, in 2019, Kevin Colbert moved up to the 10th overall pick to select Devin Bush — a choice that fans are clearly regretting at this point in time. Fortunately, Bush’s poor play is really an exception to what we have seen when the Steelers are picking early. Outside of Bush, Pittsburgh is a perfect 4 of 4 when picking in the top half of the first round over the past two decades — selecting Troy Polamalu (16th), Ben Roethlisberger (11th), Lawrence Timmons (15th), and Ryan Shazier (15th), via Pro Football Reference.
Much of the problem the Steelers have had over most of the past decade is that they have missed out on the opportunity to draft cornerstone, blue-chip, can’t-miss prospects. In other words — just using this past year’s draft class as an example — it’s impossible for Pittsburgh to land players like Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, or Micah Parsons without giving up the house to move up high enough in the draft.
I would never suggest that anyone ever actively root against the Steelers. However, considering the state of this team, I think we all know that in the back of our minds, it’s more important to have elite draft capital than a hope and a prayer in the playoffs — especially when every statistic suggests that Pittsburgh doesn’t deserve to make it this year.